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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > East Midlands > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners
  4. Rising stars

Next Generation Partners

  1. 1

Rising stars

  1. 1

Clients recommend Freeths LLP for its ‘very good technical knowledge’ and ability to handle ‘complex claims’. Under the leadership of Mark Keeley, the group undertakes a wide range of high-value litigation, including will challenges, removal applications and Court of Protection work. Estoppel claims and Inheritance Act matters are other strengths, as is the department’s knowledge of the agriculture sector. Director Rachel Gaffney is noted for her ‘excellent legal advice’.

Practice head(s):Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:Rachel Gaffney


 'Mark Keeley is good with clients and knows his stuff'

'The team has real strength in depth. It is well respected and ably led by Mark Keeely'.

'Mark Keeley has excellent personable skills, enabling him to quickly build a rapport with clients and other parties alike.  He is a very able technician who is also able very quickly to deliver pragmatic commercial solutions in the best interests of his clients'.

'They are incisive, commercially minded and technically excellent'.

'Rachel Gaffney is prompt and efficient. She has an awareness of practical and commercial considerations'.


Lawyers at Nelsons Solicitors Limited have ‘a breadth of specialist knowledge’, which is evidenced across all forms of contentious trusts and probate litigation. Recent work included a number of high-value Inheritance Act matters, will disputes and estoppel claims. Kevin Modiri leads the team, which includes recently promoted partner Lewis Addison (who is a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists). Associate Lewis Hastie is also a key figure.

Practice head(s):Kevin Modiri;

Other key lawyers:Lewis Addison; Lewis Hastie


'There is seamless coordination between fee earners when necessary'.

'A reliable, robust, firm which fights its client's corner effectively'.

'Lewis Hastie is a good and effective solicitor, who is proportionate and effective in his approach to cases. He works hard for his clients'

Roythornes Solicitors attracts particular praise for its work on proprietary estoppel matters, and it also has a strong track record in wills and trust disputes, Court of Protection matters and Inheritance Act claims. The ‘very capable and unflappable’ Tim Russ serves as practice head, and his team is noted for its 'in-depth knowledge' and ‘strength in the agricultural sector’.

Practice head(s):Tim Russ;

Other key lawyers:Sarah Whitehurst;


'The firm has strength in the agricultural sector'.

'Tim Russ is a very capable and unflappable litigator'.


Work highlights

  • Assisted a client with a proprietary estoppel claim relating to a farm in North Lincolnshire.
  • Dispute to secure a farm worth £7.25m.
  • Acting for a client on a well-publicised Inheritance Act Claim.
  • Assisted a client with a claim relating to a grandson being left out of list of beneficiaries.
  • Advised a client on a complex discretionary trust matter.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP demonstrates strong capabilities in will disputes, Inheritance Act claims, Court of Protection work and related professional negligence, among other matters. It generates work from private clients, accountants, farmers, landed estates and professional trustees, among others. The department (which is adept in cross-border work) is led by Andrew Wilkinson, who continues to develop a notable reputation in the charities sector.

Practice head(s):Andrew Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:Debra Burton

Work highlights

  • Assisted a client with successfully defending a late claim for financial provision from her father’s estate under the 1975 Act.

Flint Bishop LLP generates a significant flow of work from beneficiaries, trustees and executors. Practice head Lorna Trueman has vast experience of will challenges, executor removals, rectification, trust and Inheritance Act claims and trustee disputes. The team also specialises in professional negligence claims involving trusts and estates, as well as legacy claims and fraud issues in the charities sector.

Practice head(s):Lorna Trueman;

Other key lawyers:Sundeep Sandhu;

Work highlights

  • Acted for a beneficiary in defending an Inheritance Act 1975 claim made against an estate worth circa £1.2m.
  • Successfully handled a complex and heavily disputed probate fraud claim and an application pursuant to Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 to remove executors.
  • Acted for a personal representative and beneficiary in a complex claim that involved issues of proprietary estoppel, trusts and a claim pursuant to the Inheritance Act 1975 against 21 different defendants.
  • A claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 whereby the former unmarried partner of the deceased sought reasonable financial provision from the deceased’s estate consisting of several investment properties and worth in excess of £700k.
  • Acted for beneficiaries in a claim against an estate of £1.3m, consisting of allegations of the existence of a trust over a share portfolio worth a considerable sum and breach of that trust.

Gateley Plc covers the gamut of disputes, including claims of proprietary estoppel, applications to remove executors and breaches of trusts. Professional negligence (particularly in relation to solicitors and will writers) is an area of notable strength. The group also advises clients on various non-contentious issues. Chris Greenwell, Claire Herbert and Fiona Debney jointly lead the department.

Practice head(s):Chris Greenwell; Claire Herbert; Fiona Debney;

Smith Partnership ‘works extremely hard on the client’s behalf’, undertaking Inheritance Act claims and will challenges, as well as disputes over property trusts, the administration of estates and the occupation of land. Recently promoted partner Jak Ward, who is the practice head, has an ‘increasing and impressive depth of specialist knowledge’ and he operates with ‘care, precision and a keen eye for detail’.

Practice head(s):Jak Ward


'Jak Ward is always very honest and has the client's interests at heart'.

'The work Jak produces is always thorough and well-prepared, reflecting his natural ability and legal acumen'.

'Jak is extremely capable and has a good, relaxed manner.  Easy to work with'.

Work highlights

  • Acting for a grandchild seeking financial provision from her grandparents’ estates in the manner envisaged by their unsigned mirror wills.
  • Assisting an executor of a will with defending claims made against her by her co-executor, who alleges that she financially abused the deceased, abusing a Lasting Power of Attorney, during the deceased’s lifetime.
  • Successfully defended an estate from a proposed claim by a long-term cohabitee for financial provision from an estate.
  • Assisted a client with investigating the circumstances surrounding the preparation and execution by the deceased of a death-bed will.
  • Assisting an estate beneficiary with obtaining a full and proper inventory and account for an estate, which an obstructive personal representative failed to administer.

Praised for its ‘strong level of knowledge’ and ‘impressive work rate’, the team at Sills & Betteridge LLP is well-regarded for proprietary estoppel and financial provision claims, will disputes, applications to remove executors and trust-related litigation. The ‘excellent’ David John co-heads the practice alongside Karen Bower-Brown. Also integral to the team is recently promoted partner Robert Pearson, who handles a number of Inheritance Act claims.

Practice head(s):David John; Karen Bower-Brown;

Other key lawyers:Robert Pearson; Gary Phillips;


'They get the best result. Highly recommended and totally trusted'.

'Karen Bower-Brown works extremely hard to get me the best results, she is quick to respond, very kind and understanding'.

'Really good level of legal knowledge and a friendly practice'.

'David John is absolutely excellent in my case; he explains the whole process and makes the client feel at ease. He is very friendly and professional at all times'.

Work highlights

  • Acting for beneficiary of a large estate after administrators were appointed due to difficult family relationships.
  • Acting for a professional executor who was being sued personally by the beneficiaries.
  • Acting for an elderly widower who believes his late wife changed her will under the undue influence of her children from her first marriage.
  • Acted for executors in relation to claim to realise the estate’s beneficial interest in a property.
  • Acting for children of the deceased in Inheritance Act Claim.

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